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Walther CCP 9mm Review- Risky Business

Walther Tries for a Compact Blowback Comeback with it's compact CCP 9mm 

This Walther CCP review was originally published in Concealment Magazine, Issue 2.

The Walther CCP, or Concealed Carry Pistol presents a unique set of features that’s a notable departure from the polymer striker-fired fare we’re used to seeing these days. At the heart of the Walther CCP is a gas-delayed blowback (GDB) action that, according to Walther, compensates for the snappy recoil usually associated with lighter, smaller pistols, and reduces the strength needed to rack the slide.

Aside from the blowback action, there are a couple more features that make the Walther CCP worthy of attention in a crowded compact-carry market. Its single-stack, 8+1 9mm capacity will cause Glock 43 owners to prairie dog, and the thumb safety will be of interest to the appendix inside-the-waistband carrying crowd.

The pistol’s been on the shelves for the better part of a year, now, and there’s a rising chorus of critics pointing out how tough the Walther CCP is to field strip and reassemble. There’s also some griping about how hot the pistol gets as a result of the GDB action. We’ll take a look at these issues, but first we’ll explain Walther’s Softcoil action.

Walther CCP 9mm Walther CCP 9mm

The Problem

The 9mm NATO is a pretty powerful round when it comes to the mechanical operation of a pistol. The chamber pressure for the 9mm round is well above the average for common defensive carry rounds. That pressure translates into a very fast moving slide, which then creates a sharp recoil impulse.

Sir Isaac Newton’s second law tells us that a lighter slide will accelerate more than a heavier slide, making recoil more pronounced on smaller pistols. That’s why many locked-breech 9mm pistols, even some full-size guns, have strong or relatively complex, dual-stage recoil springs to control the round’s snappy recoil.

Those recoil springs, particularly the heavier ones, can be a real problem for shooters with below average grip strength. Female shooters are the obvious beneficiaries of reduced weight recoil springs; but anyone who’s injured or has blood-slicked hands will appreciate an easier-to-rack slide.

The Solution

A spring is one way to slow down a pistol’s slide; another is using a gas piston. Taking advantage of high school–level physics, Walther engineers use the pressure of a fired cartridge to fill a frame-mounted gas cylinder through a tiny port at the bottom of the chamber. A piston attached to the slide occupies the cylinder and when the pistol is fired, gas fills the cylinder and creates a buffer that retards the rearward motion of the piston. It’s the antithesis of a gas-operated system, as found on most rifle and machine gun designs. With the pressurized piston regulating the lion’s share of the slide’s acceleration, the recoil spring is only responsible for loading the gun and, therefore, can be a relatively lightweight coil.

This is the basis of a GDB system; where pent-up gas prevents the breech from opening until the gas pressure forces the bullet out of the barrel. When the bullet leaves the barrel, the slide cycles as pressure is released through the port and out of the clear barrel. The slowed slide, and reduced recoil, is a welcome side effect of the gas-delayed blowback operation making this system ideal for small pistols.

So, moving from a locked breech operating system to a GDB system gives the advantage of an easier to rack slide, lighter recoil, and, due to its fixed barrel, improved accuracy. You may be asking yourself — if GDB offers such obvious benefits over the various locked-breech systems out there, why am I just hearing about it now?

Historical Context

Like us, many of you probably have a romanticized and lusty opinion regarding the holy grail of Deutsch pistolkraft, the Heckler and Koch P7. It’s widely known for its unique squeeze-cocking manual of arms, but it’s also a fine example of a GDB system. It was popular during its time, but it went away as the market moved toward less expensive, lighter polymer pistols. The gun’s reputation for heating up like charcoal briquette after a few mags didn’t help, either.

Another example of the GDB system is the Steyr GB; a pistol doubly cursed by timing. Its GDB system, 18-round magazine and hybrid polygonal rifling put the gun ahead of its time when it hit the market in the late 70’s. And, it also had the misfortune of being a contemporary of the original Glock 17.

Walther CCP 9mm

Looking at the CCP’s predecessors, we can surmise the market challenges to the GDB system. These designs were expensive to produce. The gas system demanded tighter tolerances than those found in Browning tilt barrel actions. Cost, combined with a few of quirks found in the CCP’s forefathers kept the GDB system from any hope of going mainstream.

What is about the CCP that Walther thinks it can thrive where others of its ilk haven’t? For one, the price. We can only guess Walther’s figured out how to use robots or slaves to bring the manufacturing cost of the CCP and its GDB system down to a market-friendly price point. Another is the application. The GDB system makes perfect sense in a sub-compact pistol where the controlling recoil and reducing slide-racking effort is paramount.

Some of its Parts

Priced within spitting distance of the Glock 43 and the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, does the CCP offer enough to distinguish itself in a crowded field?

The 8+1 capacity is a massive draw in the sub-compact market. Some shooters will like the CCP’s longer, sculpted grip that offers a fitted feel compared to the stubby, rounded block of a grip found on the G43. Then there’s the front cocking serrations, user adjustable sights and that cute little pic rail up front. The short rail seems like it was included at the behest of Walther’s marketing team specifically to one-up the competition. In reality, we’re not so sure of its utility since it doesn’t fit our new, go-to compact carry light, the SureFire XC1, or any of the SureFire X300 series.

As for the sights, the pistol comes with three different height polymer front sights that can be swapped out with a modicum of skill, a drift punch and a Torx driver. And the windage is easily adjusted with an included hex key.

The pistol’s thumb safety is one of two safety components on the pistol; the other being a drop safety blocking the firing pin channel. The thumb safety falls perfectly under an average sized thumb and is easily dropped without breaking a firing grip. Shooters coming to the Walther CCP from a safety-less striker fired pistol might need a few practice sessions to get used to working the safety, but it’ll come.

Walther claims the CCP has a short trigger pull. It feels anything but short. Double action and revolver aficionados will feel at home; others won’t. The trigger on our test gun averaged 5.9 pounds over 10 pulls and felt a bit like turning the ignition on a 1980 Volkswagon Rabbit. It’s a little rough, and a tiny bit ratchety. Maybe a better description is comparing it to grinding teeth.

There’re two stages of takeup with no perceptible change, except some stacking before the sear releases the firing pin. This makes slow fire a bit challenging, but we think the surprise break is actually helpful for folks that suffer from anticipation. There’re a few millimeters of overtravel, which we like. Some would have you tune overtravel out of a pistol trigger, but a little overtravel makes for a more reliable trigger. We also find hitting a hard stop at the end of the trigger’s travel can disturb follow through and cause pulled shots. Lastly, reset on the CCP is imperceptible and long. But, it’s not a competition gun.

On the Range

On paper, all these trigger characteristics should make for a suboptimal shooting experience. On the contrary, we found the CCP marvelously accurate and the long, double action style trigger pull is fine for defensive use.

We fed the CCP a varied diet of seven types of ammunition. It swallowed 50 rounds each of Sig Sauer’s 124gr JHP, Polycase 74gr ARX, Hornady’s Critical Defense 115gr FTX, Hornady’s Critical Duty 135gr Flexlock, Geco 124gr FMJ, 100 rounds of American Eagle 115gr FMJ and 200 rounds of super cheap Military Ballistic Industries remanufactured 124gr FMJ. We shot most mags with homogenous loads, but ran a few handfuls of mixed ammo on some bill drills to see how the pistol kept up with differing bullet shapes and lengths.

Out of 550 rounds, we didn’t have a single stoppage.

Accuracy was impressive for a 3.5-inch barrel. The gun produced tight groups at 10 yards with both Hornady loads and the Sig Sauer rounds. The gun produced A-zone hits with the FMJ rounds, but groups were not nearly as… groupish as we saw with the JHPs.

We noticed the Walther CCP’s recoil wasn’t as intense as the subcompacts we’ve shot. It felt similar to a compact 9mm pistol, so there was some reduction in recoil. We also had a 14-year-old girl rack the slide a few times to test Walther’s rackability claim. She found the slide easy to manipulate, though she short stroked it once and created an interesting, possibly dangerous situation that we’ll address below.

Bring the Heat

During each range session, we paid attention to how hot the gun got as a result of the gas system. On average, the gun was at about an Emma Stone level of hotness for eight mags of moderate shooting; warm but in a cute, cuddly way. By the 14th reload, the pistol reached a Megan Fox level of hotness and was barley shootable. Bill drills heated things up faster. From a cold start, four mags into a bill drill got us to Summer Glau, eight mags was about Scarlett Johansson hot and by ten mags dumps the gun reached Anne Hathaway status and we just wanted to leave it alone. Keep in mind we only had two mags, so the gun cooled a little during even number mag reloads.

Heat build-up is a non-issue when it comes to a real-world, two-mag fight for your life. For an average 50-100 round practice session, heat still isn’t a major concern. Shooting a 2-day concealed carry class with the CCP might be a challenge, however.

The CCP’s sights were adequate in broad daylight, but we hit the range on a heavily overcast day and wished for more contrast or night sights. But, at press time, we couldn’t find any aftermarket sights for the CCP.

The Takedown

We’ve read the same things you have about disassembling the pistol. “It’s a total pain in the ass”, says YouTube. And, “if you lose the tool you’re screwed,” according to internet forums. Well, no. It’s not that dire. Sure, the pistol has a novel takedown procedure, but it’s easy to master and requires the included tool or a small flat blade screwdriver. In fact, we found a screwdriver easier to use than Walther’s tool. Pull the trigger, push the little catch in on the rear of the slide, pull the slide back a bit and lift it off. It takes a little dexterity, but if you can shoot a pistol, you can take a CCP apart.

People also bitch about reassembly. Yes, you have to get the piston lined up with the cylinder but it’s not difficult. Point the muzzle down and guide the piston into the cylinder as you drop the slide onto the receiver. The process is a little annoying, but the piston and cylinder are visible through the whole process, so we aren’t sure why people are having a tough time with it.

Going All the Way

With the slide off the pistol, we can see what makes the Walther CCP’s striker fired action different from its tilting barrel competitors. The striker is short and it’s on a shuttle that travels nearly the whole length of the striker channel. Unlike other SFPs where the striker resets when the slide moves just a few centimeters rearward, the CCP’s slide has to move all the way to the rear of its travel to reset. This is because the striker has to be brought from the striker port all the way back to the sear behind the striker channel safety.

This brings us to the only real concern we have with the pistol and that’s the way it resets the striker and trigger. Our young, female tester short stroked the slide and we discovered that she’d loaded a round without resetting the striker.

Again, in most SFPs, the striker is back on the sear within the first few centimeters of slide movement. Not so on the Walther CCP where the slide moves over the magazine before the striker is reset. This results in a condition where the short stroked slide can grab and load a round but it won’t fire until the slide is fully racked again. Also, in this condition the striker is in its fired state; ahead of, and unimpressed by, the striker channel safety.

To see how dangerous this condition might be, we intentionally short-stroked the slide on a blank round to see if the striker could hit the round loaded into the chamber during a drop test. We found it could. Dropping the gun, muzzle down from chest height four times put a dent on the primer, but didn’t set it off. Dropping it on its heel did. We immediately re-ran the simple test, loading an empty primed case into the chamber with a the striker forward. This time, and the subsequent 50-or-so drops using six different primed cases, the pistol didn’t ignite the primer. By the second drop on each fresh case, it did deeply dimple the primers.

It’s rare that we’d rack the slide 98% of the way, but it can happen in a moment of inattention. And should this happen, we’ve caused not one, but two unsafe conditions; the pistol is no longer drop safe and the pistol won’t fire when we pull the trigger. It’s one thing if there were any indication that the pistol was in this condition, but this isn’t the case. If you forget to activate the safety on a pistol, you see it. Short stroke a shotgun slide and the shell gets hung up. About to run out of gas? Your car’s fuel gauge will let you know. We realize this unsafe condition is the result of cascading negligent events, but aren’t that what safety systems are designed to prevent?

We let Walther Arms, Walther’s importer, know what was going on and their Director of Marketing, Everett Deger said it’s the first he’d heard of this issue. He was very concerned and overnighted us another new pistol for comparison and asked to get our faulty pistol back for Walther’s engineering team to evaluate.

Wrapping up our Walther CCP review

The Walther CCP is not the mini PPQ that people might expect. The gritty trigger may be a turn off for some at the gun counter. But, once on the range, the trigger is no hinderance to the pistol or shooter’s accuracy.

By far, the biggest issue is the pistol’s ability to accidentally load a round without cocking the striker. Perhaps we’d be okay with that risk if it were our only option, but it’s not. And this is a pistol that we’d have serious misgivings about giving to a family member; especially one that might not have the strength to operate a locking breech pistol’s slide.

Walther’s GDB approach to the single stack, concealed carry market shows a company that’s willing to think differently. The pistol is comfortable to carry, offers more grip and more rounds out of the box than its competitors. It’s supremely accurate and criticism of the pistol’s disassembly, reassembly and operating temperature are greatly exaggerated. All this and it’s priced below the G43.

On the whole, the Walther CCP is a very, very capable concealed carry pistol that punches well above its price range in most regards; unfortunately, either safety, or quality control, is not one of them.

SPECS

  • Make: Walther
  • Model: CCP
  • Caliber: 9mm NATO
  • Barrel Length: 3.34 inches
  • Overall Length: 6.4 inches
  • Magazine Capacity: 8 rounds
  • Weight Unloaded: 1.4 pounds
  • MSRP: $469/$489 Black Cerakote/Stainless Steel
  • URL: www.waltherarms.com




One response to “Walther CCP 9mm Review- Risky Business”

  1. Mickey Meador says:

    Walther makes excellent pistols but to name it CCP (Concealed Carry Pistol) is a mistake because those initials for most if the world are: Chinese Communist Party. Call me old fashioned but I will never own anything with CCP, USSR or NAZI on it.

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  • Walther makes excellent pistols but to name it CCP (Concealed Carry Pistol) is a mistake because those initials for most if the world are: Chinese Communist Party. Call me old fashioned but I will never own anything with CCP, USSR or NAZI on it.

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